Army Completes Destruction of VX Landmines on Johnston Atoll
Today, the U.S. Army took a major step in safely eliminating the U.S.
chemical weapons stockpile by demilitarizing the last of the chemical
munitions stockpiled on Johnston Atoll in the Pacific.
The operators of the Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal System
(JACADS) completed destruction on November 29 of more than 13,000 land
mines that were filled with nerve agent VX. These land mines were the
last of the chemical munitions stored on Johnston Atoll to be
destroyed. The facility, located 825 miles southwest of Hawaii, is the
nation's first fully integrated facility designed specifically for the
disposal of chemical weapons.
"The soldiers and contractors who have safely destroyed the chemical
weapons on Johnson Island should be extremely proud of their
accomplishment," said Army Lt. Gen. Paul Kern, military deputy to the
assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and
Technology. "This is an historical event which will improve the
security of the United States and provide hope for the rest of the
world that the 21st century will be safer for our children and
"Completion of the VX land mine campaign, the last of the Johnston
Island chemical weapons stockpile, paves the way for the Army to close
its doors at JACADS," said James Bacon, the Army's program manager for
Chemical Demilitarization (PMCD). "JACADS is a model of safe and
successful operations for the Army's eight other disposal sites, as
well as for other countries that are looking to safely destroy their
stockpiles of chemical weapons."
"Over the past 10 years, JACADS has safely destroyed more than 400,000
rockets, projectiles, bombs, mortars, ton containers, and mines," said
JACADS Project Manager Gary McCloskey. "JACADS also has destroyed more
than 2,000 tons of chemical agent in the form of nerve agent (GB, also
known as Sarin, and VX) and blister agent (HD). Our 100 percent
destruction of Johnston Island's stockpile adds up to six percent of
the nation's original total stockpile."
During the JACADS disposal campaigns, the Army tracked the process to
continuously improve and enhance safety for workers, the community,
and the environment. This knowledge and experience is being applied to
the Army's other disposal facilities to ensure that safe destruction
of chemical weapons continues. The Army also will share information
with other countries that are researching technologies to destroy
their chemical weapons stockpiles.
Washington Demilitarization Co., formerly the Raytheon
Demilitarization Co., has been involved in JACADS since its inception,
and has provided the design support, equipment procurement and
installation, acceptance testing, and operations and maintenance of
"We have been looking forward to this day since JACADS started
operating in June 1990," said Robert Love Jr., vice president for
Washington Demilitarization Co. and JACADS program director. "I am
proud to be a member of the team that is doing its part in safely
ridding our country and the world of chemical weapons."
Working in cooperation with several federal oversight agencies,
including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region IX and
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, PMCD is now preparing to close
JACADS. Part of the process leading to closure will include disposing
of secondary waste that was produced during disposal operations. In
addition, Chemical Agent Identification Sets that were shipped from
Guam remain to be destroyed. The Army is currently working with the
EPA to refine the procedures for safe and environmentally sound
destruction of these sets. Closure is scheduled to take up to 33
VX land mines were manufactured in the late 1950s and early 1960s and
were designed to disperse lethal agent upon detonation. They are
filled with VX nerve agent, a clear, odorless and tasteless liquid
that affects the nervous system. More than 100,000 VX landmines were
manufactured in the United States and 13,302 were stored on Johnston
Since 1971, the commander U.S. Army, Pacific (USARPAC) has been
charged with the mission of safely storing these munitions. For almost
30 years, USARPAC provided soldiers who spent yearlong tours on this
small island, away from their families, to ensure that the weapons
were safely stored until they were destroyed. This long, dedicated and
successful service is a testimony to the professionalism of thousands
of USARPAC soldiers of several generations.
Construction of JACADS began in 1985 after years of research into safe
destruction procedures. Operations began in 1990. Former and present
USARPAC commanders and U.S. Army program managers for Chemical
Demilitarization have worked together closely to complete the mission
safely and efficiently.
PMCD plans to commemorate the end of successful disposal operations at
JACADS with a series of events scheduled for next year, culminating in
a ceremony on Johnston Island in the fall of 2001.